Jack Barker is pleased with Sidney’s waterfront walkway.
As a municipal councillor from 1996 to 1999, he helped oversee the section near Eastview Park. The path is now completed along much of Sidney’s coastal border.
On political hiatus since that term, his current run for mayor was based more on businesslike reasons.
“I was concerned regarding some of our business owners in town being unfairly penalized,” Barker says. “Our business climate in town is not healthy.”
He says stringent requirements for parking, and cost charges related to development, are keeping businesses from applying to revitalize and redevelop buildings.
“I want that small-town feeling back, I don’t want to see ‘for lease’ signs on our street,” he says. “We can’t have a fractured business community … I want to see our property owners coming to the table (with proposals).”
That includes bringing west Sidney back into the fold. A high number of employees on the west side of the Pat Bay Highway commute from the West Shore during specific hours of the day, he says.
“I think we’ve got to approach B.C. Transit and see if we can get a bus there at those times.”
Bringing the west “back in” is not just about the business, though. He believes the residential area there also needs some input.
“They’re a small island of residential surrounded by commercial. I think we’ve got to talk to residents,” he explains. “I think we could do affordable housing … because we could get higher density there.”
Fiscal responsibility is a key term for him this election. “We’ve doubled our debt and we’ve taken on a 25-year term (for a loan).”
His plan would be to look at other revenue sources available to local governments. “There’s a lot out there. There are revenue streams for different processes, like job creation.”
He uses as an example the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation programs for home renovation mortgages. “Our housing is aging. We’ve got to start working for neighbourhood improvements,” Barker says.
The revitalization of business and neighbourhoods stretches as far as the waterfront, for which the town has a local area plan.
“I don’t want to see anything large, but I want to see the area come alive again,” he says of the waterfront land off Seaport Place. “I want to see it improved. I think the property owners have got a responsibility to the town.”
All that work would be contingent on communication. He suggests it could be as simple as taking out a full-page ad in the paper each month, explaining the goings-on at municipal hall.
“We’ve got to open a better line of communications to our residents. We can work together to decide what we want.”